Sutherland & Mackay Country
Scotland is filled with empty spaces, and Sutherland is the largest of them all. With a population density of less than 3 per square kilometer (contrast that with Surrey at 683) you’re unlikely to find yourself standing in a queue! Sure, you’ll meet other drivers on the narrow, single track roads but driving here is such a pleasure you’ll hardly notice them when you do.
We have sat at the summit of every major feature within an hours drive, Ben Loyal 8 times, and rarely have we seen another party, either en-route or at the top! Enjoy unrestricted access to the beautiful sandy beaches scattered along our coastline and, for the most part, even those not far from the roadside you’ll have to yourself.
Anyone who enjoys taking photographs will overdose on subject matter and no doubt be the most frustrating of passengers. For those prepared to make the effort to reach us, you will not be disappointed because this is a county you can enjoy almost as if it were your own.
The tag line used by The Tongue Hotel is “worth the journey”, and we couldn’t agree more.
Walking, Hiking, Rambling?
No matter what you prefer to call it, getting out and about on foot is the very best way to enjoy everything the Highlands have to offer. We have some of the finest mountains and hill walks in Scotland right on our doorstep. Travel times are measured in ooohs and aahhs, not hours and minutes, so even the journey to those places a little further afield, like Foinaven or Sandwood Bay, is a pleasant experience in itself!
Ben Klibreck, Ben Loyal, the mountain featured in the background of this page, and Ben Hope, Scotland’s most northerly munro, are only a short drive away!
For more detailed information about walking routes in and around our area, from easy to strenuous, we highly recommend you visit Sutherland Walks
If you prefer a different kind of leg power then you’ll find the quiet open roads a real pleasure to cycle along. With miles of single track roads to enjoy you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting your route for the day. We can recommend Strathtongue-Altnaharra-Hope-Strathtongue as a particularly rewarding day out. The Poor House sits on the Aberdeen to Shetland Islands section of National Cycle Network Route 1, so we are ideally placed for rest and repair!
Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.
Having found the cache you have a number of options. You could give yourself a well deserved pat on the back and simply walk away, but where’s the fun in that? Much better if you can do one of the following – sign the log book, trade an item (always trade up!) or relocate a ‘trackable’ item to another cache.
We have two coastal golf links within a 50 minute drive of The Poor House. Both courses welcome non-members and provide some of the finest scenery of any course in the country.
To the east – Reay Golf Club lies on the edge of Sandside Bay in the far north of Scotland and offers panoramic views of the Pentland Firth and North Atlantic from every hole on the course. The course is a true example of a links course, as you would expect when the legendary James Braid had a hand in its design. Its exposed location and the typical challenging conditions call for real shot making, from punched long irons, little bump and runs to hitting under the wind. This is how the game started and what real golf is all about.
To the west – The most north-westerly course on mainland Britain, Durness golf club welcomes visitors all year round. Officially recognised as a nine hole course, but with a second set of very different tees Durness plays like a traditional 18 holes. Being situated in North West Sutherland golfers are ensured spectacular scenery and a closeness to nature. The drive to the course (pardon the pun) from The Poor House is as breathtaking as any you will find in the British Isles. If you have a bad day on the course, don’t worry, by the time you get home you’ll have forgotten all about it, probably!
Things/Places to See
Strathnaver & The Strathnaver Museum
The place in Scotland which, more than any other, brings home the reality of “The Clearances”. For more information about Strathnaver, The Clearances and The Strathnaver Museum please visit their respective websites:
Sandwood Bay is a natural bay in Sutherland, on the far north-west coast of mainland Scotland. It is best known for its mile-long beach and Am Buachaille, a sea stack that stands at the southern end of the bay.
Though remote (about 5 miles south of Cape Wrath) and with no road access, the bay is usually reached by a 4-mile long footpath leading from the gravel car park at the hamlet of Blairmore. The beach is considered to be one of the cleanest and most unspoiled beaches in the whole of mainland Britain.
A trip to Sandwood Bay from The Poor House, including the 8 mile walk, is a very rewarding day out.
The west end of Strathy is marked by the Strathy Inn. Nearby is the junction with a minor road that leads two miles north past straggling crofts to a parking area near the tip of Strathy Point. From here you can walk to the Strathy Point Lighthouse.
Although no longer an active lighthouse (the tower was sold to a private buyer in April 2013) it was built in 1958 and was the first in Scotland to be run on electricity, and the last to be built as a manned lighthouse. Strathy Point projects far to the north of the surrounding coastline.
Visiting its lighthouse makes for a straightforward walk along a private, single track road with excellent seascapes.
Old Pulteney Distillery
Explore one of the most northerly distilleries on the Scottish mainland. The Pulteney Distillery was established in 1826 in the heart of ‘Pulteneytown’, the town created to house fishermen during Wick’s herring boom.
The distillery itself has an absorbing history, with its unique stills defying convention to this day. The wash still, in particular, is a source of fascination to visitors due to the absence of a ‘swan neck’.
Legend has it that when the still was delivered it was too tall for the still house and the manager simply decided to cut the top off! The Old Pulteney bottle now incorporates a bulbous neck to reflect the shape of the stills
There is no better way of understanding the essence of Old Pulteney Single Malt than by experiencing the unique location for yourself.
Visit The Old Pulteney website for more information about distillery tours.
Castle Varrich is reputed to have been the stronghold of a Norse warrior of the 11th Century. A small tower spectacularly located on the summit of a bluff dominating the Kyle of Tongue just to the west of the village.
The origins of the castle are unclear, but some believe it could be the “Beruvik” mentioned in the Norse Orkneyinga Saga. Others believe it was built as recently as the 1500s, by either the Bishops of Caithness or by the Mackay family.
Smoo Cave is located at the eastern edge of the village of Durness, on Scotland’s most northerly coastline. It is a dramatic location and on the only primary road in the area, the A838 Durness to Tongue. A trip to Smoo Cave has to be included in any visit to Durness.
Set into limestone cliffs, Smoo Cave is quite large – 200 feet long, 130 feet wide, and 50 feet high at the entrance. The cave is a popular tourist attraction on the north-west coast, enticing some 40,000 people to take the steps down to the outer chamber every year.
The outer chamber of the cave is open and free to the public throughout the year. During the summer months, for a small fee, you can take a short boat trip into the inner chamber.
Lotte Glob is a Danish ceramic artist living and working in Laid on the shores of beautiful Loch Eriboll. Best described in her own words…
My creative process involves a close relationship with the landscape and wilderness of the Scottish Highlands, a part of which is long hikes into the mountains, bringing back materials such as rocks and sediments to incorporate into my work.
- For more information about Lotte’s work, her studio and opening times, please visit her website
Set in the beautiful Northern Highlands of Scotland this innovative chocolatier is renowned for its range of freshly made truffles and ‘the best’ Hot Chocolate and Mountain Mocha. Online, and with it’s second outlet in Perthshire (opened in 2010), Cocoa Mountain is a modern Scottish success story
All of their delicious products are produced right there in Durness, including Chocolates, Truffles, ‘The Best’ Hot Chocolate and the Mountain Mocha
Moine House & The Moine Path
The Moine, or A’ Mhoine, is a large expanse of heather and peat bog in north Sutherland, stretching between Tongue and Loch Hope. I’m no expert but I guess before the ‘new’ road was built in 1830 travelers would brave this inhospitable stretch of morass via what we now call The Moine Path, which runs from the southern end of Loch Hope to Kinloch, at the head of the Kyle of Tongue. Although it remains visible in places, the 1830 road has been replaced by the modern A838 and the house is by-passed 100 metres to the north.
The original, hard surfaced road was constructed in 1830 and Moine House was built in the same year as a halfway rest over for those using the new road. A large, engraved plaque is built into the east gable extolling the virtues of both the road and those who built it (albeit, the text is almost illegible now). Comprising of 2 ground floor rooms and a loft, in 1881 the house was home to 9 people, 5 of them children, but still they found room to welcome weary travelers.
Almost as famous as the house itself is the graffiti that covers the weather beaten inner walls. With no roof for protection the walls are losing their render and with it the artists paintwork is either being washed away or crumbling to the floor. There is evidence of recent brick work, as much for safety as conservation, so I’d like to think the house will be there for another 200 years!
The NW Highlands Geo Park and The Rock Stop
Whatever your interests and however you choose to travel, the Geopark has some fantastic activities and amenities on offer for everyone, all year round.
At 3,000 million years old, the rocks at the seashore are even older than the hills – and what hills they are! Where else can you experience a skyline that compares to the ridges of Foinaven and Arkle, or classic hills like Suilven or Stac Pollaidh? In places like this it’s not just the eagles or the peregrines that soar. This is the most sparsely populated corner of Europe.
Stunning mountain landscapes, clean sandy beaches, ancient settlements, thriving communities – North West Highlands Geopark offers one of the best opportunities to explore wild places in Europe. And your journey through this ancient landscape would not be complete without a visit to the Geo Park’s own Rock Stop visitor centre and coffee shop.